Commons Confidential: The DUP’s mysterious missing peer

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Council house girl Emily Thornberry’s political rehabilitation is complete. Unfairly branded “snobby” after panicking Ed Miliband stupidly sacked her over a Rochester by-election tweet – of a St George’s flag obscuring a house with a white van parked in front – Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington neighbour is a late addition to the speakers at next month’s Durham Miners’ Gala. The shadow foreign secretary’s address to the massed ranks of the northern working class is intended to demonstrate a popular appeal a world away from the sexist “Lady Nugee” taunts of Tory boot boys. The day out in Durham won’t do ambitious Thornberry any harm.

Stripped of power, forlorn Amber Rudd is discovering there’s nothing as “ex” as a home secretary forced out by a scandal. Rudd was observed disconsolately sitting alone for 20 minutes in Portcullis House’s Adjournment restaurant. Only a few weeks earlier, flunkies would have fussed over her, with MPs queuing for a word. Rudd was rescued from her dessert island by Tory bruiser and former police minister Mike Penning, who took pity on the abandoned one and wandered over to invite Rudd-erless to his table. She accepted with alacrity.

Overheard in Westminster’s Marquis of Granby watering hole: energy minister Richard Harrington loudly denouncing the “madness” of Theresa May’s Brexit scramble as he encouraged a table of Europhiles to fight the ludicrously expensive “max fac” customs plan invented by David “Mad Max” Davis. Cabinet revolts are percolating down the junior ranks.

Tearoom talk is of Labour’s Europe cracks also widening into chasms on Super Tuesday on 12 June. The party’s MPs are speculating over which frontbenchers might quit to vote for the EEA Norway option opposed by Comrade Corbyn. Others predict a more significant rift within Labour when the government’s draft immigration bill is finally published. Diane Abbott has her work cut out holding the divided party together.

Fascinating whispers are surfacing over the identity of the missing DUP peer. Gospel singer William “Wild Bill” McCrea, an Old Testament fire-and-brimstone fanatic who during the Troubles demanded the RAF bomb republicans, was the party’s sole ennoblement rather than the anticipated two. The murmur is that a second nominee withdrew after security issues were raised. Interesting and disturbing.

In, out, in then out again for Richmond hokey cokey Zac Goldsmith? Disillusioned as he is by the government’s attempt to bulldoze through Heathrow airport expansion, Tory colleagues prophesise their volatile green colleague will step down permanently at the next general election.

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article appears in the 08 June 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Nuclear Family

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